Past is Prologue

Clint Schemmer writes about history, heritage preservation and the American Civil War.  On Facebook: Past is Prologue  On Twitter: @prologuepast  ContactEmail Clint or call 540/374-5424.

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Wilderness Gateway Study Released in Orange County, Va.

MORE: Read more Spotsylvania County news

Bird's-eye view of village envisioned near Wilderness Crossroads, near national battlefield park and with setback from State Route 3. (Wilderness Gateway Study)

More than a year in the making, a study of job, tourism and land-use possibilities in eastern Orange County, Va., has just been released by the Wilderness Battlefield Coalition.

Its findings, crafted through cooperation between local officials, landowners and preservationists, “offers a mutually beneficial blueprint for balancing conservation with economic development,” the coalition said Friday.

The study was unveiled at Germanna Community College’s Locust Grove Campus during a series of daylong meetings with local partners and the news media, which are ongoing.

Created after meetings with local stakeholders and intensive research by a team of consultants, the study provides a framework that its creators say would  balance preservation and development around Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. The park’s portion of the Wilderness battlefield, where forces led by Gens. Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant first fought, occupies part of the State Route 3 corridor in eastern Orange that the study analyzes.

The coalition refers to the area as the “gateway” to the battlefield–one of the nation’s top 10 Civil War sites–and an unusual array of historic sites and green space that already draw tens of thousands of visitors from out of the area, out of state, and abroad.

Here’s a summary of the study.

Here’s the full, 200-page-plus report (it’s a big file).

The gateway-study effort grew out of the recent major controversy over Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s plan to build a SuperCenter-anchored retail center at State Routes 3 and 20, a cannon shot from the national park. Facing a lawsuit by the Friends of Wilderness Battlefield, Walmart chose an alternative site on Route 3 near Germanna Community College, three miles from the battlefield. Its decision was supported by the preservation community and approved unanimously by the Orange County Board of Supervisors.

After that divisive issue was resolved, the coalition concluded that advance planning and better communication could help avoid future conflicts. In March 2011, it began investigating opportunities for broadly beneficial land-use strategies in the region.

The study team weighed many competing interests, seeking common ground and shared vision, the coalition said Friday.

The project is ambitious. It suggests “how to establish the area around the intersections of Route 3 and Route 20 as a gateway to the region’s cultural and natural resources; define appropriate development patterns that encourage development supportive of heritage tourism, and provide opportunities to grow businesses that can thrive with minimal impact to natural, cultural and scenic resources,” the coalition said.

“This study unequivocally demonstrates that preservation and development need not be mutually exclusive,” project manager Glenn Stach said. “Nor is there ever a single ideal solution for achieving this balance.  Instead, we sought to provide a framework and array of options for the community to weigh as it develops a cohesive path forward.”